WASHINGTON (TIP): Scientists have created a new low-cost, non-toxic material that mimics the lotus leaf to repel water droplets, an advance that could help create environment-friendly water-proof surfaces. The superhydrophobic nanomaterial can be applied to a variety of surfaces via spray- or spin-coating.

The hydrocarbon-based material may be a green replacement for costly, hazardous fluorocarbons commonly used for superhydrophobic applications, said Andrew Barron of Rice University in US, who led the research. “Nature knows how to make these materials and stay environmentally friendly. Our job has been to figure out how and why, and to emulate that,” Barron said.

The lotus leaf was very much on their minds as the researchers tried to mimic one of the most hydrophobic or water-repelling surfaces on the planet. “In our material, there is a microstructure created by the agglomeration of alumina nanoparticles mimicking the papillae and the hyperbranched organic moieties simulating the effect of the epicuticular waxes,” Barron said.

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